An often quoted verse is 2 Timothy 2:15, which says:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Let’s take a look at this verse in context.
The author is Paul.
The recipient is Timothy.
Timothy was the Pastor/Teacher of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).
Paul wrote an earlier letter to Timothy while Timothy was in Ephesus (1 Timothy).
In this letter, Paul explained why he wanted Timothy to remain in Ephesus: “...to command certain men not to teach false doctrines" (1 Timothy 1:3-4).
These teachers were teaching the law, but they did not know what they were talking about (1 Timothy 1:7).
Paul previously established the church in Ephesus in the gospel of grace...the word of truth as Paul called it in Ephesians 1:13.
Paul used the word grace 13 times in Ephesians.
To grasp the gospel of grace Paul taught the church in Ephesus, we must understand Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the church where Timothy was the Pastor.
In this letter, we discover grace is the wisdom and work of God in Christ to save us (Ephesians 1-3).
Through believing, we receive God’s salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 2:8-9).
Salvation is a gift we receive by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This salvation, which comes by grace through faith, is we are loved by God, he is full of kindness and mercy to us, we are holy and blameless before him, adopted into his family, dearly loved children of God, our sins have been paid in full by the blood of Jesus, we are fully forgiven by God, been made alive with Christ, raised up with Christ, and seated with him in heaven (Ephesians 1-2).
Additionally, this salvation is that we are members of God’s family and God is our Father (Ephesians 2:18-22; 3:14; 4:6).
The Spirit of God indwells us and seals our salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 2:18, 22; 3:14-19).
In Ephesians, we learn the law, with its commandments and regulations, has been destroyed and abolished through the death of Jesus (Ephesians 2:14-15).
God, through grace in Christ, has now created one new body...one new group...one new family that relates to God by grace, all that God did for us in Christ, and not by law (Ephesians 2:15-18).
As members of God's family, we will enjoy his grace forever (Ephesians 2:7).
Paul knew that teaching the gospel of grace was not a popular teaching in his generation, and it was a teaching he had to fearlessly communicate because it was opposed so fiercely by the religious leaders of his generation
Yet Paul was compelled to teach it because he received it directly from Jesus (Acts 20:24; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-5).
Paul loved the people of the church in Ephesus and was very concerned for them because some would arise from with their own church to draw them away from grace (Acts 20:17-38).
His love and concern is seen when he met with the leaders of the church for the final time, knowing he would never see them again (Acts 20:25, 38).
Paul knew false teachers would arise from within the church in Ephesus and seek to draw people away from grace, putting them under law (Acts 20:28-31).
In tears, Paul told them to continue to teach the word of grace so others could be built up (Acts 20:32).
Paul was so concerned about the church in Ephesus staying true to the truths of grace that he sent Timothy to Ephesus as Pastor/Teacher (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
Timothy was to protect the church from false teachers trying to get the church to move away from grace and to the law.
We learn this in Paul’s first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
Now Paul writes his 2 letter to Timothy, which is the final letter Paul would ever write.
Paul knew his own death was imminent (2 Timothy 4:6).
He knew his time on earth was short.
It was a matter of time before he would die under the rule of Nero.
So he writes his second letter to Timothy.
In this letter, Paul tells Timothy not to be timid in teaching grace, nor ashamed to telling others about Jesus, or ashamed of knowing Paul (1 Timothy 1:8).
Paul was not a person to associate with if Timothy desired to be accepted by the religious leaders of his generation, since grace was not a popular teaching of these leaders and was opposed fiercely by them.
Therefore, he told Timothy not to be ashamed of him.
In writing to Timothy, Paul told him that he would suffer for teaching the gospel...the grace which saves and which God provided in Christ before the beginning of time and was revealed in Christ when he appeared (2 Timothy 1:9-10).
It was this gospel of grace that Paul taught (2 Timothy 1:11).
Paul urged Timothy to continue to teach the gospel of grace (2 Timothy 1:13).
Paul wrote to him, telling him to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and to teach others about grace who would then teach others (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Paul knew for the truths of grace to be preserved for future generations, Timothy would need to communicate it effectively (2:1-2) and guard it carefully (2 Timothy 1:13).
As Timothy taught the truths of grace, which was not limited to the death of Jesus but included the physical resurrection of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:8-9), he encountered resistance.
Those who Paul said would arise from within in the church in Ephesus to distort grace and lead people back to the law had surfaced.
Arguments about law, grace, and the resurrection of Jesus erupted among those in the church in Ephesus.
Paul exhorted Timothy and the church to not get entangled in these arguments (2 Timothy 2:14, 23).
Paul told Timothy that, as the Lord’s servant, he must not argue with others about what they believed or taught, but instead he should be kind to everyone, not resentful, and able to teach (2 Timothy 2:23-24).
This leads us to 2 Timothy 2:15, the topic of the post.
As the Pastor/Teacher of the church in Ephesus, Paul told Timothy that rather than arguing, he should “Be diligent to present [himself] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The word of truth refers to the truths of grace (see Ephesians 1:13 and also Colossians 1:3-8) freely given to us in Christ.
It is understanding law and grace, as Paul taught in Romans, along with the old and new covenants (2 Corinthians 3:1-6:2; Hebrews).
It is understanding what it means to not be under law but under grace, and to not be under the old covenant but under the new covenant.
It is understanding our full forgiveness and righteousness in Christ.
It is understanding we have died with Christ and have been raised and seated with him in heaven.
It is understanding his Spirit now dwells in us, and we call God our Father.
It is understanding the we are led by the Spirit and not by the law.
It is understanding the church does not follow the law with its commandments and regulations, since the law has
been destroyed and abolished in Christ (Ephesians 2:14:15).
It is understanding the prophecies pointing to Jesus’ coming, along with his life, death, resurrection , and return within its biblical context.
Paul is telling Timothy to not waste his time arguing with others about the truths of grace and all the other parts of the word of God.
Instead, he should invest his time in putting forth maximum effort to consistently study and accurately interpret the word of truth.
By doing this, he could be confident he was approved by God in what he taught, and therefore, he did not need to argue with others or need their approval of what he taught.
As one who diligently and consistently studied the word of truth and correctly interpreted it, Timothy could avoid arguments about law, grace, and the resurrection, and he could accurately, unashamedly, kindly, patiently, carefully, and gently teach these truths to others (2 Timothy 2:24; 3:2).
As Timothy did this, he could hope that God would grant repentance to those who opposed his teaching of grace so they could come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil who had taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25).